The Crypto Locker virus is being called one of the strongest and most devastating computer viruses in history, and it strikes by literally holding computer owners hostage.
The virus infects computers through a legitimate looking email, usually from a reputable company like FedEx or UPS. Once opened, the virus quickly spreads to the computer’s hard drive and then offers the user a chance to rid the program — for a hefty fee.
“Ransomware causes your computer files to be non-accessible and when that happens you have two choices. You can recover if you have a backup which I hope you do or pay the ransom within 100 hours. If you do not pay the ransom you lose all of your data,” technology expert Anthony Mongeluzo told MyFoxPhilly.
Simply ignoring the hostage takers isn’t an option, Mongeluzo said. If the computer has photos or files that are needed, the Crypto Locker Virus puts a lock on them that can only be opened when the ransom is paid.
“The way they’re accepting payments is bitcoin, a new form of cash that’s been making headway on the Internet. It’s used for lot of illegal activities.” Mongeluzo said.
The Crypto Virus struck news station ABC 33-40 in Birmingham, Alabama, leaving the station director with little choice but to pay the ransom.
“You buy this $300 Green Dot MoneyPak, you cannot use a credit card for it, it had to be cash or debit card. Once they claim the funds, they unlock your files. If those files had been lost, it could’ve affected 10 years’ worth of work by several departments,” said Ron Thomas.
Computer experts say there could be one way around the virus. There are already copycats to the Crypto Locker Virus that demand money but don’t actually lock the computer down. Taking an infected computer to an expert can determine if this is the case.
But there are some ways to prevent the Crypto Locker Virus from taking hold, they note. Experts recommend that you never open an email from an unknown source, and back up all important files.